Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An open letter to residents in Waterloo Region

Dear friends,

Tonight, Kitchener council sits and listens to carefully spun stories of economic development, boatloads of money, jobs, tourism and more from a proposed casino in our area.

Let's hope our councillors listen to their level headed constituents  before they start getting wowed by the dollar signs being flashed before their eyes.

How much will a casino benefit our community?

We hear promises of millions of dollars per year. Where do these dollars come from? Our own citizens, losing. When we ENCOURAGE our people to lose in order for our city to gain, we can be sure that the fabric of our community is broken.

Gamblers are disproportionately more from low to medium income demographics than high ones. By encouraging people to lose, we are encouraging some of our poorest citizens to bet their hopes and dreams for a big payday... one that will be gained only by the OLG.

In the last 10 years, our own economic development fund has put over $100 million into the revitalization of our downtown core. Independent and big businesses are making their home in our core, starting to flourish and bringing PEOPLE back onto those downtown streets.

Encouraging our own citizens to travel outside our core, to the outskirts of our city, to lose their money at a casino will be in complete disregard to the work put in to make our downtown a viable, vibrant, exciting place to be.

Shall we enter the realm of the social and moral implications?

Just a few weeks ago, 250 leaders of different faiths came together in Toronto to say no to a casino. When was the last time you saw that many leaders of that many faiths agree on something?

The reason? Many of the people who seek help for gambling addiction, from the addicts themselves to their family members, turn to clergy for counsel because by the time their lives have been ripped apart, they can no longer afford private counselling for the matter. These clergy men and women? They see the worst of the worst of these cases every single day.

Lastly, let's think about our brand.

We have Blackberry. We have Desire2Learn. We have Google, EA Games, Christie Digital, Toyota and OpenText. We are home to 2 renowned universities, a college, a distinguished concert hall, the Perimeter Institute and CIGI. We are host to festivals that people travel from across the globe to attend.

All in all, Waterloo Region is a pretty kickin' place to live, work and play. Our "small town" is known across the globe and we didn't need a casino to get us there. Is preying on the ignorance of some of our citizens for a few dollars worth the loss of dignity and branding of our great community?

Stand up, residents of Waterloo Region and join me in saying no to a casino. If nothing else can sway you, consider this: Rob Ford, the man who hates bikes, hates gays, reads while driving and doesn't know the difference between Winnipeg and Windsor thinks that having a casino is his town is the best thing since sliced bead. If we can't rally together to be the opposite of everything he is, we probably can't do anything at all.

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